Best Paddle Float?

I am now looking for a paddle float. Since it is such a critical piece of emergency equipment, I want the best. I have been seaching the archieves and the net.

It seems like the “Mariner Rescue Float Plus” might be the best:

Any help?

aren’t you in a SOT?
just climb back on top…

If I am wrong, 1000 pardons

If Joe is wrong and you are in a
closed deck boat, I personally like the Gioia inflatable float. It only needs one hand to inflate and put it on your paddle. Plus it has 2 chambers and a push-pull valve that is easy to inflate or to deflate, just open the valvel and dip the paddle into the water.

If you are on a SOT, do like Joe said and just climb back on. If you need instruction, the Skill of the month at USK ( is how to “re-enter” a SOT.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-04 11:48 AM EST –

if this is for your T160 - don't bother. The whole boat is one giant paddle float. See the recent SOT recovery article here:

Paddle floats are mostly regarded as SINK gear, same as bilge pumps & sponges (though some smart open water SOT paddlers have them to pump out hatches just in case).

Otherwise, if you really need one - most of ones you'll come across are decent enough to do the job. Same basic thing with some minor variations. If you use one a lot, and it's your only rescue method - details can matter. I have an NRS - works fine - but odd as it has two different valves types (one each chamber) and is a bit of a pain to deflate. The Gaia one waterdoc mentioned sounds better.

Foam floats are another option. Quicker to use - but take up more space.

Can't recommend a "best" one to buy as I'veonly used one. Best one to use? Even in SINKS: None at all. Any recovery without the float is faster and worth learning (better - several). Float's always there as a backup.

hey waterdoc

– Last Updated: Jun-22-04 9:36 PM EST –

I have been using the seattlesport paddle float and wish the valve was more high flow. A person with good breath should be able to inflate a dual chambered paddle float in about 20 seconds msx, but the anti-hyperventilation low-flow valves in my paddlefloat keep it slower.

So are the valves in the gaia paddlefloat high flow.

anybody know about the mariner.

Even if your roll is bompproof paddlefloats can be used by a struggling paddler as an improvised spenseen with one on each end of the paddle, or an outrigger for a lunch break or... worth having a good two chambered one or solid one around.

Unless you technique is good you will sink a solid paddle float. This has good and bad points.

I’ve found a number of attributes that I like about the Wildwasser Multi-Float. It’s basically a tapered drybag with an inflation valve and a net pocket on the side. Found that after reentering simply uncliping the bag closure and swatting it while attached to the paddle will completely flatten it in a second. The other purposes for my using this is that it fits great as a stern float for my first aid kit when I teach whitewater and when I switch back to sea kayak it can also double as a deck bag with windbreaker, hat and other light weight stuff inside and be at the ready when it needs to be used for float duty. Put a tee shirt over it (when dry) and it even makes for a passable pillow when camping.

See you on the water,


A vote for Gaia
Made from coated oxford cloth (durable), has two chambers, quick draining mesh, a simple cord & cordlock attachment system. Best feature is the push-pull valves - You can operate them with your lips easily, and they are high-flow for fast inflation. Got mine at USK website, about $45.


I thought you bought a tarpon? anyway after milling around all your “I want the best this and that posts” you have to realize that different folks use and like things differently, You should join a local club such as the Palmetto paddlers and see what folks are using and what works for the way YOU plan on using it. Some of my best items that I now use I got the ideas from friends that I frequently paddle with.

Paddle Float - Sling Combination
I was at one of the local clubs (Palmetto Paddlers) safety day on Saturday. There was discussion and in the water exercises. I did not have my Tarpon 160 SOT with me and there were no other SOTs. There were standard kayaks and canoes. I did not hear any comparisons of various paddle floats.

Most people had a great deal of trouble with getting on their boat. I am out of shape with all the bed rest from my back.

The easiest way was the Paddle Float - Sling Combination that is described in detail in a link in the original link of this thread. It basically gives you a stable step to use your stronger leg muscles to step into your kayak.

My other concern is that carbon paddles are fragile. Would the shaft of this sort of self rescue stand up to the strain?

A happy Gaia paddler from the net
Subject: [Sbka-list] Fw: Gaia Paddle Float

From: seakayaker at (Steve Holtzman)

Date: Mon Jul 21 22:31:48 2003


----- Original Message -----

From: Steve Holtzman

To: jreynolds@xxxxxxxxxx

Cc: CKF ; George Miller

Sent: Monday, July 21, 2003 7:50 PM

Subject: Fw: Gaia Paddle Float


I frequently paddle with George Miller and just read about the way that your company stood behind your product. I too have been using a Gaia Paddle Float for several years on the recommendation of Wayne Horodowich. When my wife started using a closed deck boat, I didn’t really want to make the 120 mile round trip drive to Santa Barbara to meet Wayne and I was just going to buy another brand float locally since my wife never paddles alone and would almost always use an assisted rescue instead of a paddle float re-entry. Of course she would have nothing but the Gaia.

If that was the brand I used, then there must be a reason for it.

As one of several county coordinators for the California Kayak Friends, I frequently host or co-host rescue practice sessions for the club. When people have asked me why I use the brand float I do, I show them how I can use one hand to attach it to the paddle, pull the draw cord tight, and inflate it.

Recently I purchased a Greenland Paddle and I was concerned about the paddlefloat staying on. I found that if I wrap the tether around the paddle shaft and then clip it, it is just as secure as it is on my Euro style paddles. That took care of my major worry with the GP.

You can be assured that I will always use and recommend the Gaia Paddle Float because of it’s features. And as icing on the cake, to hear about how you took care of George’s problem with a lost valve, cinched it for me. I am a loyal and lifelong customer. I can’t see gambling with your life to save a couple of dollars on an inferior float.


Steve Holtzman

----- Original Message -----

From: Gproaction@xxxxxxx


Cc: ckf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx ; members@xxxxxxxx ; sbka-list@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sent: Sunday, July 20, 2003 4:43 PM

Subject: CKF: Gaia Paddle Float

Mr. Jeff Reynolds

Brand Manager

Gaia Paddlesports

Dear Jeff:

I have used Gaia paddle floats for years and never had a problem. During

rescue practice last week, a three year old float lost a valve, which dropped off

after repeated use and vanished. I wrote to Gaia to tell them about it. Three

days later, a repair kit showed up on my doorstep, gratis.

It is really nice to see a company standing behind its product like that and

I thank you. A copy of this email is being sent to e-mail lists of three kayak

clubs that I belong to.


George J. Miller

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I have both
On the rear deck, I have a foam float. In the pocket of skirt, there is an inflatable. Please try this self rescue if you swim. Hold your boat. Hold your paddle and bend your knees up so as not to get your feet tangled in rocks or a net. Go to stern of boat and push down on the stern 3 times and then spin the boat as your bear hug it to get the water out. Now straddle the boat as you slide up as though sliding up a teeter-totter. Fastened across back deck are a pair of one inch diam electrical brackets(or you could use mop closet brackets) to hold paddle perpendicular while you climb back in. To fasten skirt in waves- I wear a cabella pfd with 2 straps that buckle across the front. With pfd unzipped but still buckled, slide paddle thru strap across chest and now I can do a no hands brace to refasten skirt. You do not see a lot of sit on tops up north because the seat tends to be so high on boats such as cd speedster that they are wicked tippy. You can go faster in a narrow kayak with a low seat and therefore a much lower center of gravity. Down south, people are more apt to have all winter to master boats such as speedster. I prefer thigh braces and tiller steering of a west side boat. Please pracice reentry!

questions / concerns

– Last Updated: Jun-22-04 6:06 PM EST –

1. How are carbon shafts fragile? I use one in WW and I can assure you it gets abused WAY beyond anything a imaginable. I have a carbon shaft touring blade and it too has never shown any signs of giving out. I don't baby my gear either.

2. Paddle float / rescue sling combo...... Now I am sure I am opening up a can of worms with this issue but.....

If you are concerned that you will not be able to re-enter your boat after a capsize WITHOUT the aids, you either need to NOT be paddling in those conditions or always paddle with other people. If you were to be in conditions that flip your boat, trying to facilitate a paddle float / rescue sling rescue will be sketchy as you will be in the same conditions that caused you to flip. ( I also think slings are an entanglement hazard but that is an arguement for another day.)

If you paddle with other folks, much of this problem will be eliminated. THEY will help you back in your boat by stabilizing it as you climb back on board. They can also grab your vest and aid in the re-entry physically. I would not think of watching a paddling partner go through the motions of self rescue if I were there....unless of course they wanted to practice.

and while I am on my soapbox, BEFORE you enter conditions where you fear a capsize, get yourself in shape. An ounce of prevention.......

Search the archives
I don’t want to start a mini-flame war on this, but there are many reasons for and against the sling.

Suffice it to say I think a less is more approach with gear is best. Adding pieces as additional layers of defense may be OK - but not as a first or only option.

Personally, me, the boat, and the paddle is enough to coordinate. Add the float and it’s more, add a stirrup and I’m spending too much time with the gear and not enough with the rescuing! I think a paddle float rescue is so easy that the strap is superfluous - and complicates good simple technique - but everyone is different.

You said others you watched had SINKS - but you WILL be paddling your Tarpon, yes? Really - you should not have use for a float with that boat. Just kick/push up over the seat (doesn’t take any force or skill if you practice it once in a while), spin around, and go! In chop - do it slower and more deliberately. I waves - be willing to wait lying low across the cockpit to take advantage of wave timing. You can even do it backward - facing out. Just push yourself up into a side saddle position - then swing legs in. I’d recommend just sitting side saddle and dangling your legs off one side occasionally. Comfortable and a nice cool off/rest - but also reinforces the feel for the Tarpon’s stability which helps with remounts.

Methinks it’s time you begin transitioning from the acquisition phase into the practice and testing phase. You can learn a lot ABOUT paddling here. But you can’t learn paddling here.

The valves are definitely high flow

The valves are high flow valves. I can inflate my paddle float with just a few good puffs.

The draw cord and cliplock make it very easy to attach to the paddle. slip it over the blade, grab the drawcord in your teeth, with one hand tighten the clip lock on it. Inflate the float. That’s all that’s really needed. There is also a strap to go around the shaft, but it’s not really necessary and I frequently don’t bother with it.

It will also fit my GP paddle if I use the strap around the shaft too.

When you’re in the boat and ready to go, I just open the valves and stick the paddle into the water (making sure not to submerge the valves) and in just a couple of seconds, the float is empty, and can be stowed.

I purchased mine in person from Wayne Horodowich and my wife’s via his USK web site.

My paddlefloat is almost 5 years old and is still going strong, even though I use it in practice sessions about once a month.

BTW, I am the writer of the first email that is posted further down about comments found on the net.


I do not let newbies use my epic
full carbon for paddlefloat rescues even without a sling, that’s what the lightning standard in glass is for.

ON the other hand an epic surf reinforced carbon could hack it I’m sure>

All depends what criteria the paddle is designed for strength or light weight.

You shouldn’t need a sling on a SOT.
I normally carry a sling as part of my safety gear for OTHERS to use if they are having trouble getting into their boats.

On a SOT, don’t try to come up out of the water, but rather get your feet to the surface and swim onto your boat. Check out the BBF rescue for SOT at or at Wayne H’s USK web site at It’s really a very easy way to get onto a SOT. It just takes some practice.

The guys that I paddle with are all extremely good paddlers. Open water crossings of 15 miles or more, surf launches and landings, etc, yet we still get out about once a month for a practice day or “wet day” as we call them. We spend more time out of the boats than in and also try to practice in rough water. It’s a good habit to get into.

Good luck,

My carbon shaft Toksook
has no problems handling a paddlefloat and sling combination.

However, I usually put the sling around the victims combing instead of the paddle.

Rather than looking at the materials of construction, look at the strength of the particular paddle. My Swift paddle would never be used with a sling unless it was a life or death situation. My FG Werner Kauai would not have a problem either.

I wouldn’t use a super light paddle and a sling and expect the paddle to survive.

Self Rescue
We all have different circumstances. The kayaking is my way of getting back in shape. I live on the lake without many paddlers on it. Because of the heat I will be doing most of my paddling now at dawn or at night. I will do most during the week when the power boats are gone.

In terms of risk, the lake is like bathwater now so no danger of hypothermia. I will carry a VHF but there may be no one listening when I am out. For safty, I am thinking about totally dropping the regular phone companies and going 100% cellular. Then I just call 911 and out comes a rescue boat.

I agree
"Methinks it’s time you begin transitioning from the acquisition phase into the practice and testing phase. You can learn a lot ABOUT paddling here. But you can’t learn paddling here."

I totally agree. I did not have the equipment I felt I needed until this week. So now I begin to practice on the water. Most of the ordering is done. Just a few things to pick up still like a paddle float. Trying to decide between the two top floats and thinking about going with the Gaia since it has had the highest reviews.

Odd man out…
I have gone from an inflatable to a foam float made to fit my paddles.

The reason being winter paddling here in Wyoming involves freezing waters. Inflating a float can be difficult in winter gear. Finger dexterity dimishes rapidly in freezing water and even getting one’s lips to seal on the valve can be a problem.

Additionally, I really like the way a foam float sweeps for a re-entry and roll.

If I’m using a float to stabise my boat when taking pictures on calmer warmer waters, I do prefer the inflatable as it has a greater flotation factor than my foam float.